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Division (vote)

A Division is a procedure by which the votes of the members of a legislature may be recorded, as opposed to a voice vote, wherein votes are unrecorded.

Table of contents
1 The United Kingdom
2 Australia
3 The United States

The United Kingdom

House of Commons

In the House of Commons, the Speaker states "The Question is thatů", then proposing the question. Next, he says, "As many as are of that opinion say Aye." Then, following shouts of "Aye", he says, "of the contrary, No," and similar shouts of "No" follow. The Speaker then announces his opinion as to the winner, stating "I think the Ayes have it" or "I think the Noes have it."

Any member may object to the Speaker's determination. If the Speaker feels that the division is unnecessary, he may first ask those who support his determination of the voice vote to rise, and then ask those who oppose the opinion to rise. Then, the Speaker may either declare that his ruling on the voice vote stands, or proceed to a division.

If a division is to be taken, the Speaker first states, "Clear the Lobbies!" The two division lobbies alongside the House Chamber are then cleared of "strangers". Each side, the Ayes and the Noes, must appoint two tellers, who are responsible for counting the votes, from amongst their number. That a side fails to appoint two tellers generally indicates that only one person seeks to vote on that side. Basically, the requirement that tellers be appointed translates to requiring two members, rather than one, to force a division.

Two minutes after the question was first proposed, assuming that tellers have been appointed, the Speaker again proposes the question as above. If his opinion is not challenged, then the question is decided without a division. But if his determination is once again disputed, the Speaker declares, "The Ayes to the right, the Noes to the left," and then names the tellers. If one side fails to appoint tellers, then the other side wins the vote and the division is not held.

The members then enter the Aye or No lobby, as appropriate. Originally, there was but one lobby. In A Manual of Parliamentary Practice, Thomas Jefferson writes:

"[T]he one party goes forth, and the other remains in the House. This has made it important which go forth, and which remain; because the latter gain all the indolent, the indifferent and inattentive. Their general rule therefore is, that those who give their votes for the preservation of the orders of the House, shall stay in, and those who are for introducing any new matter or alteration, or proceeding contrary to the established course, are to go out."

After it was bombed during World War II, the House of Commons Chamber was rebuilt. At that time, a second lobby was added.

The Division Bell is rung througout the building, to notify any members not currently in the chamber that a vote is about to start. A recent development has been the use of pagers by party whips, to summon members from further afield.

When the tellers are ready, the lobbies' exit doors are opened, and the members counted by the tellers, and their names recorded by clerks, as they leave. No earlier than eight minutes after the question has been proposed, the Speaker declares, "Lock the Doors." The lobby entrances are locked, and only those within the lobby may vote.

After all members have voted in the lobbies, the vote totals are written on a card, which is read by the Speaker, who then announces the final result. The Speaker himself does not vote, except in the case of a tie. Members may signify, but not record, an abstention by remaining in their seats during the division.

In the event that fewer than forty members voted in the division, the division is ignored, the question at hand is postponed until the next sitting, and the House proceeds to the next business.

In 2000, the House introduced, on an experimental basis, the procedure of "Deferred Divisions." Essentially, some divisions are delayed until the next Wednesday. However, the procedure is used for very few matters; most divisions still occur normally.

House of Lords

In the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor proposes the question and announces the result as in the Commons, but he substitutes "Content" for "Aye" and "Not-Content" for "No". A Lord may object to the Lord Chancellor's determination. The Lord Chancellor then announces a division by stating, "Clear the Bar!" The Bar of the House is then cleared. Tellers are appointed as in the Commons.

Three minutes after the question was first proposed, the Lord Chancellor again proposes the question as above. If his opinion is not challenged, then the question is decided without a division. But if his decision is once again disputed, the Lord Chancellor may again ask the question. The question may be repeated as many times as the Lord Chancellor pleases; the process is referred to as "collecting the voices". But if a single Lord maintains an objection, the Lord Chancellor, not having the Speaker's power to declare a division unnecessary, must eventually announce, "The Contents to the right by the Throne, the Noes to the left by the Bar". Lords then vote in the lobbies, as it is done in the Commons. Unlike the Speaker, the Lord Chancellor may vote during a division; he does so from his seat rather than in a lobby. In the event that the votes are equal, then the following principles apply:

The quorum for divisions is three Lords on a procedural vote and thirty Lords on a substantive one.

Australia

House of Representatives

In the Australian House of Representatives divisions follow a form similar to that of the United Kingdom, but the requirements are generally more stringent. For instance, a Member in the Chamber when the tellers are appointed must vote, while a Member not then present may not. Furthermore, members must vote in accordance to their voice votes. The voice vote is held as in the British House of Commons. If a Member objects, then the division bells are rung. When not less than four minutes have elapsed since the question was first put, the Speaker orders that the doors to the Chamber be locked, and directs that the Ayes proceed to the right side of the Chamber, and that the Noes proceed to the left. Members then take seats on the appropriate side of the Chamber, rather than entering a lobby, and then the Speaker appoints tellers for each side, unless fewer than five Members are seated on one side, in which case the Speaker calls of the division and declares the result for the side with the greater number of Members. If the division is still on, the tellers count and record the names of the Members. The Speaker announces the result, but does not himself vote unless there is an equality of votes.

Senate

In the Australian Senate, a procedure similar to that of the House of Representatives is followed. The voice vote is taken, and, if two Senators object, a division is held. Senators take seats in the right or left of the Chamber as in the House, and the President of the Senate appoints one teller for each side to record the votes. The President may vote by stating to the Senate the side on which he intends to vote. If the result of the division is an equality of votes, then the motion is in all cases disagreed to.

The United States

In the United States Congress, divisions are used, but not in the same manner as in the British Parliament. In Congress, lobbies are not used, and the division is not a final determination of the question. The vote is first taken by voice vote, as is the case in Parliament. Then, any member may demand a division. If a division is demanded, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President (or President pro tempore) of the Senate asks those voting Aye to rise and remain standing until counted, and then asks those voting No to do the same. Thereafter, a recorded vote may, under the provisions of the US Constitution, be forced upon the demand of one-fifth of the members present. In the Senate, the recorded vote is accomplished by the Clerk's call of the Roll. In the House, a Roll Call may be used, as may electronic voting devices. (For further information, see Recorded vote.)